Selena Severson on the hazards of secondhand smoke

uncle-sam-put-out-cigaretteA full 90 years before U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop published his 1986 report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Smoking, and 110 years before U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Richard H. Carmona released his 2006 follow-up report, The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke, Selena Severson published an article alerting doctors to the dangers of exposing children and teens to secondhand smoke.

In her 1896 paper, Effects of Cigarette Smoke Upon Children and Youth, Selena Severson details the physiological effects of tobacco smoke on numerous systems. She not only urges doctors not to subject their young patients to tobacco smoke, but implies that all people, young and old—doctors included—should give up smoking.

In the discussion of her article (pages 348 to 350), it is amusing to see two of the four doctors (Dr. Tanner and Dr. Caldwell) defend their habit of smoking in general (Dr. Tanner) and while seeing patients (Dr. Caldwell).

It is interesting as well to note that Selena’s argument was made decades before the link between tobacco and cancer was established. Her argument is based on tobacco smoke’s effect of producing functional disturbances in major organs and systems, and the deleterious effect that responding to these disturbances has on still-growing individuals.

Here’s a PDF of her article and the related discussion that followed its presentation. The individual pages are also presented below.

The article was apparently a success, as it was reprinted (without the comments that followed in the discussion section) in:

and abstracted in the following:

page 344_pst.000057606194-362

page 345_pst.000057606194-363

page 346_pst.000057606194-364

page 347_pst.000057606194-365

page 348_pst.000057606194-366

page 349_pst.000057606194-367

page 350_pst.000057606194-368

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